The New Student Traveler Is More Than Just Backpacks and Parties

Students overlooking Camps Bay in South Africa.
Students overlooking Camps Bay in South Africa.

Monash University / Flickr

Students overlooking Camps Bay in South Africa. Monash University / Flickr

Earlier this month we launched our latest free report The State of Student Travel, brought to you in partnership with Student Universe.

Below is an extract. Get the full report here to get ahead of this trend.

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Student travelers, circa 2014, are in-destination for classroom experiences; they are crossing borders for language immersion; they are taking jobs and internships while abroad.

And the student traveler is increasingly possessed of definite ideas about what they want from their trip experiences.

“I wanted something real, something authentic,” wrote Julika Sarah, a German art historian and medievalist who blogged about her experiences as a student traveler in Portugal, in 2013. “I wanted to get to know the locals and improve my Portuguese. This was most likely not going to happen at some all-you-can-drink-event.”

While having a good time with peers isn’t absent from student travel, industry leaders would do well to pay attention to the opportunities illuminated by statements such as Sarah’s.

“I really loved having a daily routine,” she continued. “That moment when I started recognizing the people at my subway stop, or when the waiters of the pastelaria next to my university started to ask me ‘um sumo laranja natural como sempre, menina?’ when I came in, because they knew I loved their fresh-pressed orange juice — those were the times I started realizing that Lisbon was my home. And that was the most beautiful feeling of all.”


chart act

In scenarios much like this one, the student traveler is looking for a specific kind of immersion — one that is about making a kind of (temporary) home within the culture they’ve chosen to experience.

At the start of September, 2014, Skift partnered with StudentUniverse to ask educational travelers what they sought, regarding destination environments and their ideal kinds of trips. The charts (right) show what the respondents had to say.

In a significant way, by this measure, history is on the minds of student travelers.

And, as Sarah’s words perhaps predicted, the female segment of the demographic is prioritizing one-to-one interactions in a way that isn’t tied to the bar or club (at least, as often as it is for some of their male counterparts). Interestingly, however, when asked about parties and nightlife, the same student travelers further framed their journeys as learning-prioritized events.

When framing the student traveler as an experience-conscious consumer, it is time to re-frame their inclinations. The student traveler wants a well-rounded set of options while in-destination. This is not surprising when one considers — as we will in the next section — more about the characteristics that the student traveler’s most commonly encountered demographic tends to include.

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Skift Take: Student travelers represent a key demographic for travel-brand growth, but only if brands commit to understanding the evolving wants and needs of this primarily youth-driven segment.

— Jason Clampet

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